The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Nearly a year ago, University of Illinois at Chicago law professor Jason Kilborn came under criticism from students, administrators and colleagues for including a hypothetical on his civil procedure exam involving an individual telling an investigating lawyer that former co-workers "expressed their anger at Plaintiff, calling her a "n____" and "b____" (profane expressions for African Americans and women) and vowed to get rid of her." Once complaints surfaced, Kilborn apologized but the controversy and allegations only grew. Students eventually brought in Jesse Jackson to bolster their demands that Kilborn be fired. Kilborn was suspended and investigated. He eventually reached a settlement with the university that would allow him to return to his teaching duties, but the university has subsequently reneged on that agreement. It continues to single him out for opprobrium, discipline, and reeducation. The chancellor of UIC has now dug in his heels on the matter. Northwestern University law professor Andy Koppelman has written about this case from the beginning and has appropriately decried the university's actions as a "witch hunt."
For the University of Illinois at Chicago to retaliate against and sanction Professor Kilborn for constitutionally and contractually protected classroom speech would be a grave violation of academic freedom. The Academic Freedom Alliance stands firmly behind Professor Kilborn in this matter, calls on the University of Illinois at Chicago to adhere to its academic freedom principles and to abandon any conditions on his full return to his academic duties, and to publicly and emphatically reaffirm that professors at the university are free to conduct classroom discussions and to draft class exams that engage relevant but controversial language and materials.